Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why They Hate

For the last couple of days, I've been talking about different aspects of Henry Granju's life and death, and what we as a community can do to get a grip on the drug problem. Yesterday, I outlined a few steps we can take to keep our kids safe, and I pointed out that the solution must come from the community itself, not be imposed from above. We have to do it; there's no government program that can do it for us, and that is why it is so important to keep pushing forward on Henry's case. Due to the Herculean efforts of his mother, Henry's death provides us with an opportunity to actually change the way things are done here in Knoxville and to take measures to protect our kids. And there are many of us who want to do just that, and stand ready to take the baton from Katie and keep running the race.

Reading the comments section in the Knoxville News Sentinel, you would think we were some kind of whacked out cult trying to take over the town. The hate frequently froths over on the page and so many vile comments are left standing that I hate to imagine what the ones that the KNS decides to delete are like. Katie has been called everything from a drunk parent to an egomaniac, from an indifferent mother who couldn't be bothered to raise her kids to an overprotective mother who can't face the truth about her son. She's been accused of smothering Henry, coddling Henry, ignoring Henry, enabling Henry, and all because she stood up and said that the people who gave her son an overdose of drugs, and the men who beat and robbed him should face justice as provided for under Tennessee Law.

You would think that she's the one who committed a crime.

Where does this anger, this hatred come from?

Well, it turns out that Yoda was right. Anger and hatred find their roots in fear. And in this case the fear comes from the realization in the heart of every parent, whether we admit to it or not, that our children are independent agents, and that they will often make decisions that go against everything we've tried to teach them.

That's a bold statement, and I'm going to go even further. If you think your child is the exception to the rule, that you've raised them right and they would never ever do anything that you did not approve of, then you are either lying to yourself or guilty of child abuse.

Now that I've pissed a bunch of you off, let me explain. First a few questions.

How many of you can honestly say that your kids have never disobeyed you? That you've never had to discipline than in any way? Nobody, right? The biggest task in parenting is teaching our children right and wrong, using discipline to help them develop self-discipline, and training their young minds to think rationally and make responsible decisions. At the same time, we need to give them the freedom to develop, to become people instead of automatons. It is a delicate balance, setting boundaries without crushing independence, nurturing growth while maintaining respect, encouraging exploration while keeping them safe. It's not a science; it's an art, and we're all amateurs when we start.

My next question. For those of you who have raised your children through young adulthood, how many decisions have they made that you disagree with? Choices of friends, clothing, jewelry, etc. How many times have they made a choice that conflicts with the values you've tried to instill in them? How many times have you had to step in and manage the consequences of the choices they've made? Again, that's one of the biggest tasks in parenting. We don't want to isolate our children from the consequences of their choices, but at the same time we don't want those consequences to ruin them. So we do the best we can to teach them responsibility while trying to protect them until they achieve it.

And now my final question. For those of you who have raised your children to adults, when you look back over the job you did as parents, are there things you would change if you could? Do you see mistakes you made, things that held your child back, or hurt them in some way? Are there opportunities you missed, lessons you failed to teach, or examples that you regret setting for your kids? Take a good, long, hard look at yourself as a parent. Were you perfect? Or did you just do the best you could? Was it good enough?

If we are honest with ourselves, in our hearts we know that much of the time, we were just making it up as we went along. We took examples from our parents, added in our own beliefs, and did the best we could. We learned on the job, and one of the things we learned was that we were in competition with the rest of the world as we tried to raise our children. As our kids grow, they become exposed to other influences and those influences may or may not coincide with what we've been trying to teach them. There comes a time when our influence over our children goes from primary to secondary. Unfortunately, that time comes well before our children are capable of making fully rational choices. The decision making centers of the brain are not fully developed, and a code of behavior is not fully developed. Adolescents are still very impressionable, and the image impressed by our culture is not one that is safe.

Look at what's on TV, the lyrics in popular songs, the dress that is now acceptable, the behaviors that are now acceptable. Don't worry, I'm not going on a right wing rant about censoring things, just pointing out that the role models provided for our children today do not embody values that lead to responsible, mature, decision making.

It is this that causes the fear that lives in every parent's heart. We know that we've one everything we could to raise our children to be strong, smart, and responsible, but we also know that our influence diminishes as they get older, which is also at the same time as the risk grows greater. As out ability to control our children's lives begins to decrease, the potential consequences of their decisions increases. As our influence fades, the influence of their peers, their culture, and other adults in their lives grows. That plus the knowledge we have of the dangers waiting for them is enough to make the most secure parent fearful. Add to that our memories of the stupid things we did when we were their age, and it's a wonder we aren't all strapped into love-me jackets in rooms with padded walls.

To be a parent is to live in fear for your child, with the knowledge that the world we live in is a dangerous one that can destroy lives in a heart beat. We deal with that fear in different ways. Some of us turn to God, and place that burden on Him. (A choice I highly recommend by the way.) Some of us become obsessed and become helicopter parents, never letting their kids grow up. And some choose to deny the fear and pretend that it only happens to bad parents. We all deal with the fear in different ways, but all parents share it. We know that what happened to Henry can happen to any parent's child. We know that any feeling of security we have for our children is largely illusory, and that illusion can be dispelled forever by the simple sound of a ringing telephone.

And I really think that knowledge is what's behind most of the hate being poured out on Katie. She is standing up and forcing everyone to see that what happened to Henry was not due to bad parenting, or bad luck, or being born poor, or living in the wrong neighborhood. Henry's death rips away at the illusions, all the tricks we use to deny our fears and forces us to acknowledge that our children can be taken away from us despite everything we've done to protect them. That's a scary thing to admit, and since we don't like to be afraid, we get angry instead. We lash out at the cause of our fear, or if that is out of reach, at whatever causes us to confront that fear. In this case, Katie, by refusing to allow us to hide behind the blinders of "just another junkie overdose; nothing to see here," is forcing us to confront that fear, that essential powerlessness that comes with parenting a young adult, and that makes us angry.

And Katie wasn't just forcing us to face addiction head on, she was also forcing us to see that the people we put in charge of enforcing the law were not always worthy of the faith we put into them. That bad people could do bad things to our children and law enforcement would be almost completely disinterested in holding anybody accountable.

I have to be honest. I could very easily have been hiding behind those blinders myself, except that I had them ripped away the day Henry died. My son was in a car wreck that same day. He went to the same ER, the same ICU, even shared a nurse with Henry. As our family was gathering to wait and see whether Luke would live or die, (he lived, thank God), Katie's family was slowly dispersing home, to deal with their grief, to mourn, and to try to find a way to get through the rest of their lives with a large piece missing. There are no coincidences on this earth; I believe there is a purpose to everything, no matter how hard it is for us to see it and as I offered Katie my consolation as she left the hospital in tears, I immediately believed that Henry and Luke were linked.

My eyes were opened and when Katie began to post about her concerns, I saw the truth in her words. Because I was already living the parent's worst nightmare, I was beyond denial. I knew it could happen at any time, in any family. Whether through a drug addiction, a car wreck, or a random act of violence, our children, the ones we promised ourselves we would die to protect, can be taken from us and there's not a thing we can do to prevent it. All of our best efforts can still come up short.

And that, in the end, is why there's so much hate spewing. Katie is forcing people to face some very uncomfortable truths, and that always brings out the worst in some people.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fighting the Drug Infestation

Yesterday, I talked about Henry, and his responsibility for the circumstances of his death. I lightly touched on several issues surrounding addiction, including the diminished capacity to make rational decisions when high, and when in withdrawal. And then I started to examine just what we can do in the face of the dangers of teenaged drug use. Considering that many if not most drug users start experimenting well before they hit 18, we can't simply say they made their choice and paid the price. Nor can we hold their parents completely responsible, since kids over the age of 12 will often make decisions that directly conflict with what their parents taught them.

So how do we deal with cases like this? How do we properly apportion responsibility and mete out justice? Fortunately, as a nation of laws, we do have a clear cut path forward but it requires a tremendous amount of personal integrity.

First, we have to check our prejudices at the door. We have to put away any moralizing about the victims and the accused. Calling Henry a drug dealer is accurate, but as Katie points out, it isn't a full description of him any more than 'tax cheat' is a complete description of Timothy Geithner. And more importantly, it should be completely irrelevant when we are talking about justice. His addiction drove him into dangerous places and activities; however, that does not in any way lessen the responsibility of anybody who took advantage of that addiction to harm him.

Second, we have to apply the law equally, without partiality. Had Henry been arrested, tried, and convicted for dealing, I have no doubt that Katie and Chris would have no issues with Henry serving time as prescribed by law. But that wasn't what happened. Henry was robbed, beaten, and then given a lethal dose of an illegal drug. That's not justice in any form. Henry should not have been treated like a second class citizen by the KCSD; his case should have been vigorously investigated and prosecuted. Instead, the KCSD literally phoned in the investigation, resulting in a failure to gather any evidence to support prosecution. Contrast this with the work of the KPD. Once the KCSD closed the case, the KPD went into action. Rather than limiting themselves to Henry's death, they took the copious amount of information available in the case files and went to work. Over a period of weeks, the KPD developed evidence, presented it to a grand jury, and garnered arrests of all key players. There's no reason the KCSD couldn't have done the same thing.

That they didn't is evidence enough of their lack of effort on this case.

Third, we have to vigorously attack the problem at it's source. Opinions vary as to whether drug interdiction or education is more effective at controlling drug use. That's not a question that will be answered in a blog, but given the fact that we know kids are vulnerable, that their capacity for reason is not fully developed at the time they are first introduced to drug use, interdiction must play a key role in protecting them from drug predators.

This is a community problem, not one that can be solved by any police force no matter how dedicated. By definition, police are reactive; when they get involved, it's already too late. Somebody has been hurt. In order to protect kids, we have to be proactive. I'm not talking about Federal or state programs to regulate drugs or limit their availability; that's a failing strategy. And I'm not talking about more drug awareness programs, which are another failure. These two approaches share the same flaw; they go from the top down. They rely on a slow reacting bureaucracy dominated by special interests and hamstrung by conflicting priorities. While our children are dying, our government agencies are debating the merits of midnight basketball leagues.

I'm talking about real community involvement at the local level. I'm talking about neighbors standing up and making their neighborhood unattractive to dealers. Everyone I've talked to knows where the crack houses are in their neighborhood. Meth labs aren't secret. Each time one is taken down, the news will interview residents who say they knew something was going on, but either didn't think they should say something, or did say something and the police failed to respond. We know where the bad neighborhoods are, and it's very easy to pawn off the problem as one that concerns only the people who live there, but the truth is that the drug blight affects us all. We often hear about the 50% of the victims of drug violence come from the inner cities. What we don't stop to consider is that figure means that 50% come from the suburbs.

The only way we will ever get control of illegal drugs is to make it very clear that we won't tolerate it. Period.

I'm not saying we should take the law into our own hands and go for some vigilante justice; what I am saying is that it is up to us to make sure that our own little slice of the world is free from infestation, and then turn around and help the folks next door do the same thing.

The final step is the hardest one of all, and we'll talk about that on Friday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Henry: Dealer or Addict?

Yesterday, I outlined my reasons for continuing to actively pursue changes in the way we see drug users and addicts. In short, right now, according to our law enforcement community, drug addicts are basically disposable. This attitude is a reflection of our society as a whole, which many times turns a blind eye to criminal activity as long as the victim was somehow asking for it. In a comment on that post, Katie Granju raises a very interesting question, one that I planned to address fairly soon anyway.
As for my son being a dealer, I swallow hard every time I read that because the only evidence that exists of my son's dealing is evidence that ***I**** voluntarily offered to authoritities to help get other dealers off the street. To be fair to Henry, he was never arrested or charged or convicted of any crime, yet his reputation has been sullied in a way that is very, very painful to me. The much older adults now arrested and charged with drug dealing are referred to as "accused" and "alleged" - and that's appropriate. They will also receive every consideration and protection our legal system and media ethics provide to be sure that their reputations are not forever tarnished with the words "drug dealer" unless they are ultimately convicted. Yet my son, who has no protection, no peer review of the evidence "against" him, and who was never charged with any crime is now forever branded "drug dealer" because I wanted to be as straigtforward as I could be in sharing info with authorities so they could use that info to go after still-active criminals who might be preying on other teens.

Don't misunderstand - I do believe Henry was dealing drugs in the final period of his life - but many victims of crime were likely involved in something that they should not have been at the time of their death, yet it's not common practice for the public to consider that negative behavior to be their defining characteristic.

My son was a teenager hooked on drugs sold by adults who made and still make lots of money on the addicts they create and kill.

The question is easy to state, but difficult to answer. Are there differences between drug dealers?

Now that the masks have been pulled off of Houser and Harper, some of the more hateful commenters at the News Sentinel are now trying to draw an equivalency between them and Henry. They say we are hypocrites if we term Henry a victim and them as predators if all three were drug addicts. Their 'logic' is that if Henry was a victim because he was a drug addict, and they are also drug addicts, then they too must be victims.

There are several flaws in this logic, starting with the simple fact that Henry was a victim regardless of his status as a drug addict. First and most plainly, he was the victim of a robbery and assault. That the assault and robbery took place is not in question; the men involved admitted that it took place, although they lied to cover up their part in the assault. Second, according to the story told by Henry's friends, he was given an overdose of methadone by people who pretended to be his friends, and when he collapsed in their home, they tried to avoid calling for medical assistance. Henry was the victim of several crimes over the course of 36 hours.

The next flaw is that as far as we know, Harper and Houser dealt drugs, but weren't using them. Remember, according to the News Sentinel's report on the wrongful death lawsuit, the methadone clinic named in the suit claimed that not only were Houser and Harper not patients, but that they were not registered at all in the State of Tennessee as patients at any methadone clinic. While they may have been former addicts, to date, no source, either the case files released by the KCSD or written up in the KNS have ever said they were users.

And finally, just what is it they are supposedly victims of? What crime has been perpetrated against them? Were they beaten and robbed? Were they given drugs that killed them?


So much for the 'logic' of your typical KNS commenter.

As much as it obviously pains Katie to discuss, Henry was selling drugs. That's how he supported his habit. The text messages on his phone support the idea that on the day he was robbed, he was eager to make a sale in order to bail his girlfriend out of jail. But as far as the record shows, Henry was not involved in dealing as a means of support. There's no mention of him building a network. There's no indication that he tried to expand his market to increase his sales. Every indication we have suggests that Henry's only interest in selling drugs was to get the money to score for himself.

Compare that with the prototypical drug dealer. Always on the move to increase his sales, looking to hook new clients, supporting themselves on the proceeds of their sales, and using violence to protect their business, these people are professionals; it's how they make a living. Clearly, this description does not fit Henry. As Katie pointed out, Henry was never arrested, charged, or convicted for selling drugs.

But it isn't that simple.

Nobody knows the pain and despair of addiction like another addict. So when one addict sells to another, it is with the knowledge that they are deepening the hold of the other's addiction, enabling them to remain trapped in a hellish existence of always searching for the next score. Of course, the alternative is to consign them to either going through withdrawal, or finding another, possibly more dangerous source for their fix. Every deal Henry made put another person at risk. While he wasn't seeking to hook new users, I don't know that he would have refused to sell to them. Henry certainly bears a moral responsibility for his decision to sell drugs to support his habit, but again, that's only one side of the equation. As an addict, his ability to make reasoned decisions was drastically impaired. We don't hold people with diminished mental capacities responsible for decisions they make, and a drug addict is certainly operating in a diminished mental capacity.

The difference of course is that addicts made the decision that led directly to that diminished capacity. But Henry made that decision as a juvenile and we don't hold those decisions against people for the rest of their lives, do we?

Like I said, there are no easy answers. Henry was both an addict and a dealer, and while his addiction played a role in the choices he made, choices that left him vulnerable, he was also the victim of crimes as stated in Tennessee law, and the perpetrators of those crimes should have been brought to justice, Henry's failings notwithstanding.

Trying to apportion an addict's responsibility is a Gordian knot with no easy solution, and I can't provide one in a single blog post. All I can do is point out that the simple answers are wrong, and maybe lay out the foundation for a better response.

So we'll tackle that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Justice for Henry: My Path Forward

Some of you may be wondering why I'm still writing about this. After all, the folks involved in Henry's death have been arrested and will face hefty jail time if convicted. Katie has said that it is time to move forward, and wrote an eloquent post in order to do just that, move forward. While she hasn't backed off from her position that the KCSD failed to perform a thorough, professional investigation, she's shifting her focus away from past mistake and more towards making changes for the future.

Some think I should be doing the same.

I'm not.

Not because I think Katie is wrong for doing so; she's run her race. Her quest has always been in two parts. First, she wanted to get some from of justice for Henry, and she has succeeded. True, the charges are not related to Henry's death, but the fact remains that the people who were involved are now facing prison time and have been exposed as drug dealers, not "Good Samaritans." Now it's time for her to set her priorities on the second part of her quest, to educate the public about the insidious epidemic of drug abuse, and to provide help to teens and young adults caught in the snare of drug abuse. I fully expect that Katie will take a couple of weeks to enjoy her family, rest and recharge, and then jump back into the fight, but this time, focusing on education, intervention, and treatment to prevent other families from being torn apart as hers was. I expect she will lobby for tougher drug laws, for more rigorous investigation protocols, and to have the state of Tennessee actually enforce the laws already on the books. Katie and her family will move on with the work that will give the tragedy of Henry's life and death a meaning. Nothing will ever replace Henry in their hearts, but knowing that because of Henry's death, many other lives will be saved, will provide some measure of comfort.

It's time for Katie to start that work, bringing meaning out of a meaningless tragedy.

But for the rest of us, there's still hard work to be done.

Let's get this straight right from the beginning. Henry was a drug addict and a dealer. He sold drugs to support his habit. He'd been through rehab a couple of times, but was unable to kick the addiction. In the end, that addiction cost him his life. My father was an alcoholic and he died several years ago, partially because of the drinking, so I have some understanding of what Katie went through with Henry. But there were significant differences between my father's death and Henry's. My dad died from kidney failure brought on by a combination of hemochromatosis and the alcoholism. He drank, knowing that it would eventually kill him, because to him, he had no choice not to. The addiction was too strong. In this, he was just like Henry. But the key difference is that nobody took my father away from his family, nobody used his addiction to control and isolate him, and nobody gave him an overdose of alcohol while telling him it was safe.

Henry was an addict, and he was a dealer, and had he been arrested for using or dealing, I would have stood foursquare for him to pay the price for his crimes as decided by a court of law. I believe in accountability. However, that is not what happened. There was no justice in Henry's death. No trial, no court of law, no judge, no jury, no appeal. To say that because he was an addict, Henry somehow deserved what happened to him is ludicrous because that means that Henry was at fault for allowing people to take advantage of him.

We stopped blaming the victim in most cases a long time ago; drug users are one of the last holdouts.

The only way to change this is to get people to recognize their own prejudices, to rub their noses in it if necessary, and that's what I am going to do.

My goal is to make the folks at the KCSD and at the KNS see Henry and other young addicts as people, not things. I want them to understand that when as addict is taken advantage of, is beaten and robbed it is no different than any other citizen being beaten and robbed. Some law enforcement officers will tell you that this is already the case; the more honest ones will admit that some citizens are more important than others.

The way to end this insidious kind of discrimination is to highlight it whenever it occurs; to point it out with a brilliant spotlight so everybody sees it. As I learn more about the investigation and how the story was covered by Knoxville media, I'll be examining every statement, every press release in order to look for and highlight any signs of complacency, indifference, or incompetence. By shining a light, I hope to dispel some ignorance.

That's my path forward.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why I’m Not Cutting the Knoxville News Sentinel Any Slack.

When information given to you by somebody else turns out to be false, there are only two possible causes. Either the source was wrong, or the source was lying.

Check back through the email exchanges with Jaime Satterfield in this post and see if you can tell which side Satterfield puts Katie on. If you aren't sure, let me point you to another exchange Ms. Satterfield had, this time on a public forum.
Jamie Satterfield
03-08-2011, 08:34 PM
As far as I can tell, no one has come forward to say they saw this couple give Henry a fatal dose of methadone. That leaves KCSO with nothing more than hearsay, which is inadmissible in court. Not to mention that the initial claim was that Henry suffered broken ribs, a broken jaw and a skull fracture when the medical examiner specifically ruled out any proof of such injuries. (Emphasis mine)
Should we be targeting dealers who supply people like Henry with drugs? Absolutely. KCSO certainly can and should try to build a case via traditional and legally acceptable means - send in a snitch and record buys, for example. But there simply is no prosecutable case based on what the family has so far revealed.

There are at least four instances in these two links of Jaime Satterfield either implying or outright saying that Katie has been deceptive in discussing Henry's injuries, and that this ruins her credibility. The problem is that the case files document conclusively that Katie was not spinning, manipulating, or in any way distorting the truth. Instead, she was accurately conveying the medical information given to her at the time by the physicians and caregivers at two separate hospitals. Satterfield didn't know that because she didn't have the background knowledge to read and understand the medical files, nor did she have the complete medical files, only the edited version supplied by the Knox County Sheriff's Department. Despite this lack of information, when the ME's report came out several weeks after Henry died, Satterfield concluded that since the ME found no evidence that there was any trauma from the attack, Katie must have been distorting the truth. In essence, Satterfield ignored all the medical reports in the case file, ignored the fact that every doctor who examined Henry believed that his trauma came from an assault and said so to the Granju family, ignored all of that in order to accuse Katie of distorting the truth.

So, why would she assume that Katie was lying? Arrogance springing from her own ignorance? Or was she primed to believe the worst, and if so, who colored her perceptions? Is the bias limited to Satterfield, or does it extend throughout the KNS?

My questions go even deeper. How is it that a seasoned reporter like Satterfield fails to do basic research in order to understand a medical file? A minute or two on Google, and Satterfield would have known that the case file did note bruising on Henry's chest, saving the KNS no small amount of embarrassment. A simple timeline would have shown that when Katie was talking about details of the assault and Henry's injuries, her descriptions were consistent with the medical documents of the same time period. Had Don Jacobs taken the time to look at the medical files Katie brought to him, the KNS would have had a fuller picture of Henry's medical condition as observed by the medical professionals who saw him while he was alive.

That makes two separate reporters, both of whom discounted Katie's reports of what happened to Henry.

What bothers me most about this is that the KNS does not show any of this skepticism towards the KCSD. While they question virtually every word out of Katie's mouth, they accept without question the pronouncements from the KCSD, even the ones that are demonstrably in error.

I can't come up with a reasonable explanation for the disparity in treatment shown by the KNS that doesn't involve some sort of institutional bias at the paper. Maybe there is one; maybe Jack McElroy will be able to explain exactly why his paper has missed the boat so badly on this story. And it's clear to anybody with an open mind that they have missed it. As other news organizations begin to look more closely at the events surrounding the death of Henry Granju, we will learn more about what happened that night at the Houser home, why the KCSD investigation went nowhere, how a KPD detective became so heavily involved in a KCSD case, and why, despite ample evidence of drug dealing and confessions of robbery, the case was closed with no arrests, and no additional investigation. And we may even find out why the KNS shows no interest in any of these questions. At this point, I'm hoping that the answers to all of these questions boil down to indifference coupled with incompetence.

But I'm no longer counting on it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Arrests Possible for KCSD; Four Arrests by the KPD. JJs Not Looking So Good.

One of the things I find most interesting about the press release is visible only between the lines. While the KCSD and the DA's office are listed as investigators along with the KPD, if you read carefully, you realize that their contribution was the investigation that they said "could not result in arrests or successful prosecutions. Clearly, the KPD did not agree, and using the failures of the KCSD as a springboard, the Organized Crime Unit (Interesting choice of investigative bodies, isn't it?) of the KPD moved forward and got multiple arrests.

One question I've always wanted to ask Sheriff Jones: In the affidavit filled out by Brad Hall in order to get Yolanda Harper's phone records, he stated that he had personal knowledge that she had engaged in drug trafficking and listed the details of the transaction. That being the case, why did the Sheriff's Office continue to refer to Harper as a "Good Samaritan," and never pursue any additional investigations beyond the Granju case? Why was Sheriff Jones content to leave a known drug dealer on the streets for a year?

Maybe we'll get an answer to that question in the trials to come.

Holding the Knoxville News Sentinel Accountable

A couple of days ago, Jack McElroy wrote a column in which, disguised as a series of corrections, he sought to insulate the KNS from deficiencies in their coverage of Henry Granju's death. As I read through the column, I found several statements that were either misleading, or completely inaccurate. I exchanged a series of emails with Jaime Satterfield, the reporter who wrote the article in question, and with Tom Chester, the News Editor for the KNS. The tone of the emails, along with statements made by Satterfield, contradict portions of McElroy's column. I'm including the full email conversation, as well as the relevant portions of McElroy's column.

From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 13:54:38 2011
Subject: The Henry Granju Case files

Hi Jaime,

I just left you a voice mail and wanted to follow up with an email because I know how busy you are. I met you when I was blogging the KNS's coverage of the Sunshine/Knox County Commissioner flap.

I'm going to write a blog post, or possibly a free-lance article if I can find somebody interested in publishing it, detailing what happened to Henry, how local law enforcement reacted, and how the media covered it. Right now, I'm working through the Henry Granju case file, trying to reconcile the information there with information Ms. Granju has shared publicly over the last year, and in the course of doing so, I've found several discrepancies in the case files, and in your reporting. For example, in your Sunday article, you reported that Dustin Rush is 30 years old. The case file contains two different birth-dates for Rush, one in 1980, and the other in 1988. His actual age is 22.

Also, you state in your article that there was no indication of bruising on Henry's chest in the medical records, yet the emergency room admissions report clearly notes ecchymosis, the medical term for bruising, on his chest, as well as bleeding from his ears, two black eyes, and Battle's sign. These injuries were not apparent on the 26th, when he got into Houser's van, which begs the question: Where did they come from?

I also noted that the phone records from Yolanda Harper and Randall Houser's land lines were incomplete. Despite dozens of calls listed for the 25th and the 27th, there are no calls recorded to or from that number on the 26th, the day Henry was given methadone by Yolanda, and then taken to their home.

Were you aware those records were left out of the case file?

I've found other records missing as well.

My wife Lissa remembers you from when you covered the murder of her brother, Scott Norman, and she speaks highly of you. I'd like to talk to you, to show you some of the discrepancies in the record that I've found, and get your take on them, as well as the investigation itself. The case file appears to raise more questions than it answers. If you could, please give me a call at 865 xxx xxxx.


Rich Hailey

I identified myself, my purpose for the email, laid out my questions, and asked for a response. Two important notes. My email was sent to the KNS on Aug 3, just a few days after Satterfield's story enveloped the Sunday paper. In it, I identified the error concerning bruising, specifically mentioning the medical terminology used. This was well before the Granju family ever met with McElroy. Yet here is how McElroy characterizes the error and how it was found:

Afterward, I received a letter from the Granju family strongly objecting to many aspects of the story, which they described as "full of half truths, inaccuracies via omission, out of context quotes and information presented as original reporting, and flat out untruths."

I met with staff members involved, and in reviewing the file, one specific error quickly was identified. The story had said that Henry's medical records did not "detail bruising on his chest or broken bones." In fact, there was a record of a bruise on his chest, which had been overlooked because of the medical terminology used.

This is a flat out lie. The KNS knew the story was inaccurate in this respect on August 3, well before the Granju family sent their letter. They didn't bother to correct it until forced to do so.

Here is Satterfield's response to my email:
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey9
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 5:47 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Good luck in your pursuit of this story. If I had Rush's age wrong I'll correct it but I stand by the rest of the story. Katie reported clear signs of kicks to the chest. The records did not bear that out. The ME attributed bruising around the eyes and blood in his right ear (see follow up email from UT to Katie on this issue) to the overdose. My story did not say that Henry had no injuries. It said that his friends saw little or no injury. The question my story sought to answer is this: is there a prosecutable case? The answer, at this juncture, is no. I won't debate the merits of Katie's arguments but I have experienced discrepancies in some things she told me and then later said or blogged.

First, as of today, the age of Dustin Rush is still listed as 30 years old in the story. So much for follow up by Satterfield. Second, notice that Satterfield did not address the missing phone records, and once again repeated the error that there were no records of bruising noted in the medical records. Next, notice her attempt to impugn Katie's credibility. Finally, and now we're back to McElroy's spin, Satterfield says that the purpose of her story was to determine if there was a prosecutable case. Here's how McElroy cast it:
The story was written in a narrative style intended to vividly portray the problem of prescription drug abuse and the presentation was meant to convey to the reader that the information was from the investigative file and not independently gathered by the newspaper. The responsibility for that approach was mine, and to any who were offended or confused, I apologize.

So, which was it? A story to portray the problems of prescription drug abuse, or a story to determine whether there was a prosecutable case?

Apparently McElroy and Satterfield don't talk much.

Here is my response to Satterfield:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 16:17:54 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Thanks for your quick response. Just to be clear, I'm noting the following:

1. You did not notice that there were two different birth-dates for Rush in the file.
2. The absence of any calls in the Harper/Houser phone records on April 26th does not seem unusual to you and warrants no comment.
3. Your article claims that the medical files do not mention any bruises to Henry's chest, yet the medical file clearly notes that bruising on his chest did exist at the time of his admission to the emergency room.
4. Henry was brought into the emergency room with significant injuries; injuries that his friends did not see prior to his entering Houser's van. You have no interest in determining the cause of those injuries.
5. Your only interest in writing/publishing the story on Sunday was to determine if the file presented enough evidence for prosecution, not to determine whether the file was accurate, or whether the investigation was, as the KCSO portrayed it, thorough and exhaustive.
6. You have no interest in pursuing discrepancies in the case file, or potential shortcomings in the investigation.

If I'm wrong in any of the above points, please let me know.

One more quick question: Who else reviewed the file along with you? Was it just you or was there a division of labor?

Thanks again for your response.

The points I raised were directly from her email, which ignored most of the issues I raised based on the released files, specifically addressing only one issue, that of the age of Dustin Rush. Point 1 is important because it is a measure of the thoroughness of the KNS review and the follow up question springs from that as well as the failure to recognize ecchymosis as a medical term for bruising.

I was still professional, but I intended to challenge her to speak directly to the issues I was raising. Her response:
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:36 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

You are wrong on several points but you are free to blog whatever you choose. I am simply not going to debate with you.

Challenge rejected! The most useful part of this email was her permission to blog whatever I wanted, which is why I am comfortable posting these emails in their entirety. My response:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Wed Aug 03 18:48:52 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, I'm not looking for a debate and I'm sorry if it comes across that way. I'm just looking for information from the perspective of the KNS. You are a reporter with two decades of experience and I was looking for your input on aspects of the case file that I find questionable. I'm sure you've seen dozens of case files, and I was looking for your guidance as to what was normal and what wasn't. I wrote the summary of your responses because I do not want to mischaracterize you or the KNS, not because I wanted to provoke a debate.

Again, if I am incorrect on any of the six points I outlined, by all means let me know and I will correct them.

I want whatever I write to be accurate.

Thanks again,

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Can I re-establish a dialog?
From: "Satterfield, Jamie"
To: rhailey
Sent: Thursday, August 4, 2011 8:30 AM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

The ME has opined that injuries initially believed by UT to be beating injuries were instead attributed to the overdose and the file shows UT now concurs.
Henry's cellphone records show calls from Harper's cell to Henry's cell on April 26 so there is nothing missing. If you look at the summary preceding the records you will see that KCSO made note of a particularly long call between Harper and Henry on the 26th.
The Granju family told reporter Don Jacobs Henry had a broken jaw and broken ribs (see our archives) but the ME found no evidence of that nor did UT.
My purpose in the story was to show what the file shows and what it doesn't show about what happened to Henry. To say I didn't care or seek to determine what happened is patently false.
Harper called the DA's office this week and said a man came to her trailer claiming to be working with me on this story. No one has been working with me on this story. The DA is investigating so if that was you, I would suggest you contact Kevin Allen. If it was not you I apologize for raising the issue.
All I was trying to say yesterday is that what I hoped to do in the story is lay out what evidence exists so readers can judge not only what may or may not have happened but also the veracity of both KCSO's probe and Katie's claims.
Let me share one example that has troubled me about the manipulation going on here. On the day the file was to be released at noon, I was notified at 11 am it would not be ready for several hours due to the time it was taking to copy onto discs. I immediately notified Katie. She said she was going to arrive at noon anyway. So the notion that KCSO made her wait 5 hours is not entirely accurate. She knew there would be a lengthy wait before she arrived. She also later told me (I'm not sure why) that during her wait she never asked for the file but instead repeatedly asked to see Martha Dooley. She was given a copy of the file before any were distributed to the public.
I'm not suggesting KCSO's treatment of her throughout this contentious probe was appropriate. But both sides have engaged in spin so I have sought to remain squarely in the middle as a reporter should. I hope this clarifies.

This email shows a gross misunderstanding of the information in the case file. Let's take each one in order.
1. The ME has opined that injuries initially believed by UT to be beating injuries were instead attributed to the overdose and the file shows UT now concurs.While the UT doctors concurred that the cause of death was an overdose and not trauma from the beating, in no way did any of the doctors at UT agree that there was no trauma. That there were no fractures as they suspected and recorded in the medical files? Sure. But no trauma? Nope. Here is a quote from the ADA summary of the case:
"On Sept 17,2010, I spoke again with Dr. Hecht, who had conferred with Dr Ryder, HLG's neurologist, and after reviewing the ME's report, he believed the ME was correct that the non accidental trauma did not contribute to HLG's death."

First, Dr's Hecht and Ryder agreed with the ME that the cause of death was hypoxia due to an overdose. Nobody argues that. But nowhere in this statement does either doctor agree that there was never any trauma from the attack. In fact, the statement explicitly recognizes the presence of trauma from the attack as the "non accidental trauma." The overdose was an accident, as ruled by the ME. The trauma unrelated to the overdose was related to the attack. Additionally, the medical files as released by the KCSO are incomplete. Katie has scores of documents showing the doctors describing the trauma as Henry was admitted and being treated.Henry's discharge papers from UT note"He did have pericardial effusion (buildup of fluid in the membrane surrounding the heart) from his assault. He did have raccoon eyes. He did have multiple traumas..." Also from the case file is his initial emergency room exam, which notes both head trauma and Battle's Sign. I could go on but it is clear that the evidence that Henry sustained a major assault came not from spin from Katie and her family, but from the assessment of the medical professionals treating Henry.
2. Henry's cellphone records show calls from Harper's cell to Henry's cell on April 26 so there is nothing missing. If you look at the summary preceding the records you will see that KCSO made note of a particularly long call between Harper and Henry on the 26th.The missing data comes from Harper/Houser's land line, a phone that saw extensive use both before and after Henry's stay. Why were the calls to and from that phone missing? Why can't Satterfield even acknowledge that there is a significant gap in the records as presented by the KCSO? Why does she think that the presence of cell phone records somehow magically accounts for the missing 36 hours of land line records?
3. The Granju family told reporter Don Jacobs Henry had a broken jaw and broken ribs (see our archives) but the ME found no evidence of that nor did UT.When Katie Granju reported that Henry had a fractured skull and a broken jaw, that came directly from the treating doctors. The fact that the ME found no evidence of fractures 6 weeks later in no way invalidates what Katie was told at the time.
Again, from the case file as released by the KCSO: "Radiology Report 05/06/10 Results: Indication: Trauma. Right skull base fracture. Evaluate for cortical or watershed injury." And once again from May 5th: "Although CT scan of the bones of the basal skull could help with making a diagnosis of fracture I think it is clear enough clinically that it is not needed..." In short, while the ME found 6 weeks later that Henry did not have a fractured skull, he presented the doctors treating him at the time of his admission and throughout his stay at UT with all the signs they needed to clinically needed to diagnose him with one. Satterfield's statement that UT found no sign of skull fractures is not consistent with the medical records in the case file, which clearly show that doctors at two hospitals recorded symptoms of a skull fracture. More to the point, whether there was a skull fracture or not, the observations of the physicians who treated Henry in the ER and the ICU make it clear that he was hit hard enough in the head to exhibit all symptoms of a fractures skull, and hard enough in the chest to damage the pericardium.
At this point I began to believe that Satterfield never read the report, instead relying mostly on the executive summary from the ADA.
4. My purpose in the story was to show what the file shows and what it doesn't show about what happened to Henry. To say I didn't care or seek to determine what happened is patently false.As demonstrated above, if her mission was to present what was in the report accurately, she failed miserably. If, on the other hand, her mission was to validate the KCSO and the DA, she did a masterful job. Additionally, she might want to take this up with Mr. McElroy, who, as quoted above, specifically commissioned a story that looked only at the evidence gathered by the KCSO, and not by the paper itself. I'm curious, what steps did Satterfield take to determine what actually happened? According to McElroy, she wasn't authorized to take any.
5. Harper called the DA's office this week and said a man came to her trailer claiming to be working with me on this story. No one has been working with me on this story. The DA is investigating so if that was you, I would suggest you contact Kevin Allen. If it was not you I apologize for raising the issue. I'm not sure what this was about, except maybe an attempt to intimidate me. It failed.
6.All I was trying to say yesterday is that what I hoped to do in the story is lay out what evidence exists so readers can judge not only what may or may not have happened but also the veracity of both KCSO's probe and Katie's claims. Again, this is not consistent with the article she wrote. There was no critical thinking, no analysis of the records, just a stenographic recitation of selected bits and pieces from the case file, presented in a way to reinforce certain conclusions while ignoring evidence that supported alternate views.
7. Let me share one example that has troubled me about the manipulation going on here. On the day the file was to be released at noon, I was notified at 11 am it would not be ready for several hours due to the time it was taking to copy onto discs. I immediately notified Katie. She said she was going to arrive at noon anyway. So the notion that KCSO made her wait 5 hours is not entirely accurate. She knew there would be a lengthy wait before she arrived. She also later told me (I'm not sure why) that during her wait she never asked for the file but instead repeatedly asked to see Martha Dooley. She was given a copy of the file before any were distributed to the public. What is troubling about this? Katie posted frequently that she had never once met with anyone from the Sheriff's Department during the entire ordeal. The KCSO had already released case files, including the preliminary autopsy to the press without notifying the family; surely she was justified in taking measure to make sure it didn't happen again. And while she waited, she tried to meet with someone, anyone, from the Sheriff's Office.

Ok, so it should be obvious that I have a serious disagreement with Satterfield over both her story and how she's justifying it. Also, since I was at the Sheriff's office when Katie picked up the records, I wanted to correct any misinformation that might have been floating around the newsroom. So I responded:
From: Rich Hailey
To: Satterfield, Jamie
Sent: Thu Aug 04 08:51:27 2011
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, once again, thanks for your response and the clarification. While I disagree with you on whether there are missing records or not, I believe I understand where you are coming from, both as an individual and as a reporter for the KNS.

As for the person who interviewed Yolanda Harper, that was not me. I'm still digging through the case file and won't be ready to do any interviews for a while yet. When I do start interviewing people connected with the case, I will do it exactly like I did with you, identifying myself and my purpose right up front. Even then, it's doubtful that I will approach Harper or Houser, as I consider Houser to be a fairly dangerous man. But thanks for the heads up.

Finally, I do want to clarify the events at the Sheriff's office when Katie went to pick up the records, not to start a debate, but to give you additional information that may remove the perception of spin, at least in this case. I can tell you what happened because I was there the whole time.

First, Katie told us that she had been informed by a reporter that the records were going to be released at noon the next day, and she asked for people to be there with her. Lissa and I took time off work to be there, and arrived about 11:50. Katie got there at about the same time and told us, and the reporters that were there, that she had been told by the same reporter that the release of the file had been delayed, and that we would have to wait for awhile. She then went to the Records window and asked to see Martha Dooley. She didn't ask for the case file, or even mention it. She was told to take a seat, that Ms. Dooley would be paged and would come out to meet with her.

An hour went by.

Katie went back to the records window to get an update on when Ms. Dooley would be coming out to meet her. At this point, she was told that Ms. Dooley wasn't in her office that day, that her husband was in the hospital and she was there with him. Katie asked why she hadn't been told that in the first place, and the woman at the window had no answer. Katie then asked to speak with Ms Dooley's assistant, and was told she could do so, and to go to the Sheriff's office.

Katie went to the Sheriff's Office and asked to see Ashley Haynes. She was asked if she had an appointment and when she answered that she did not, was told she would have to wait. The receptionist immediately phoned somebody and told them that Katie was there, along with reporters.

We waited calmly for a couple of hours. There was a brief, ugly encounter with a Sheriff's office employee, but nothing of note happened until Martha Dooley came into the office and had an extended conversation with Katie. There is video of that conversation linked at the justice for henry site. If you watch the video, remember that this is the first time Katie has met face to face with anybody from the KCSO.

We moved back to the records waiting room at 4:30, and by 5:30, Katie had her disk and we left.

I do want to single out one KCSO employee who went out of their way to make Katie and the rest of us comfortable. As the Sheriff's office was closing, Capt. Dan Henderson came through to secure the office. He spoke very graciously to Kaie, and the rest of us who were waiting, expressed his sympathy to Katie, apologized for the long wait, offered to get soft drinks, and in general, treated us like human beings instead of obstructions. He provided a human face that the office lacked up until that point.

Some important things to note, at least in my opinion:
At no time did Katie ask for the records; that was an assumption on the part of the KCSO.
At no time did Katie receive notification from the KCSO that the records were going to be released.
The only reason Katie received the records before the media was that she was tipped off by friend in the media and was there to get them. Had she not been there, the case files would have been released to the media first. Given that this happened with the preliminary autopsy, she was understandably concerned that it might happen again.
Katie said several times to anybody who would listen that she was waiting to speak to somebody from the Sheriff's Office; she never mentioned the case file. (In fact, the only time Martha Dooley was speechless was when she realized that Brad Hall had never spoken to Katie or Chris face to face, and that nobody from the KCSO had done so until that day.)

Sorry for the long post, and once again, thanks for clarifying your position. I will do my best to convey it accurately in anything I write.

One last question, and this is more of a general attitude thing, and not specific to the case. You wrote that since both sides were spinning, you were aiming to stay in the middle, as a reporter should. My aim in this is to get to the truth, whether it is in the middle, or with one side or the other. I'm not trying to construct a narrative at this point; just trying to get to the facts that can be verified. Katie has reported things that have turned out to be wrong, for example the timing on Savannah Aderholt's 911 call, but there are also problems with the KCSO files. I am vetting Katie's reports just as thoroughly as I am the KCSO case file. Once I have facts that I can rely on, then I'll look for a narrative that fits the facts.

Is this the correct approach?

Once again, thanks for your time, and I hope I haven't taken up too much of yours.

Take care,

Once again, straight forward, polite, and I hope, professional. Here is Satterfield's response:
FROM:Satterfield, Jamie
TO: rhailey
Thursday, August 4, 2011 1:27 PM
If I were close enough to one side in a story to accompany her to the sheriff's office I could not ethically report on the case as a reporter. Maybe the rules for bloggers aren't as stringent.

And we're back to that again. I'm asking questions without easy answers, so now I'm unprofessional and lacking standards.

My response:
You may our may not have noticed, but I did not report on Katie's trip to the sheriff's office. Instead I provided an eye witness account to a reporter who wasn't there and who had voiced misgivings about how the incident was portrayed by one of the participants.

My standards are just fine.

And that ended my exchange with Jaime Satterfield.

But not my exchange with the KNS. When Satterfield got huffy the first time, telling me I could "blog whatever I wanted", I sent a copy of the emails to date to Tom Chester, the News Editor:
From: Rich Hailey
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 10:26 PM
To: Chester, Tom
Subject: Fw: The Henry Granju Case files

Mr. Chester,

First, this is not a complaint about Jaime Satterfield; she is a good reporter and does good work.

Second, this is not an attack on the credibility/capabilities of the KNS. When I blogged the Knox County Commission Sunshine trial, and when Jack McElroy allowed me to blog from the newsroom about how a paper gets put together, I saw nothing but fairness and professionalism from everybody there.

I just have some big questions about the contents of the case file, and before I start writing about what I'm finding, I want to get the KNS perspective so I can present it accurately.

As I pointed out in my initial email, I've found some errors in the case file, and at least one very significant omission.

When I looked at the phone records for the Harper/Houser land line, I saw that there were no calls to or from that number from just before midnight on the 25th until after 10 am on the 27th. There were dozens of calls recorded on the 25th, and also on the 27th, but none for the critical 36 hours. There are two possibilities. Either for 36 hours, that phone never rang, or the records are incomplete. Given the traffic on that phone shown by the records for every other day, I find the former supposition doubtful, to say the least.

Am I crazy? When the KNS reviewed the file, did you notice this gap in the record? Did you ask the KCSO about it? If so, what was their response? Does anybody have an unexpurgated copy of the phone records for that number?

As I wrote to Jaime, my goal is to make sure that anything I write is accurate and complete. Any information you can give me from the KNS perspective will help me to meet that goal.

Thanks for your time,


----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Rich Hailey
To: "Satterfield, Jamie"
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 9:48 PM
Subject: Re: The Henry Granju Case files

Jaime, I'm not looking for a debate and I'm sorry if it comes across that way...(the rest of the chain is deleted for space)

Again, polite, reasonable, and what I think are valid questions about the case file. Here is Mr. Chester's response:

Thanks, I received your note.

He's a taciturn man, isn't he?

So, what is the takeaway from this? Basically, that just about everything the KNS has written about Henry Granju has been in service of an agenda, not informing the public. They have spent almost zero time in fact checking, and as McElroy said himself, have done no independent investigations of their own. Instead, they've just accepted what the KCSO has told them, without critical analysis, and without verification. Whenever Katie has presented information that does not conform with the KCSO version of events, they imply that she is 'spinning' the truth, and 'manipulating' the media while all along, as anybody who takes the time to read the case files can tell you, it is the KCSO which is doing the manipulation.

There are people I like at the KNS, and there are people I respect as well. But as a whole, I no longer trust what I read there. I was at a football game the other day and I heard a couple of people talking about the Sentinel.

"Did you see the story in the Sentinel this morning?"
"Nope. The last time I bought a News Sentinel it was to use to house train my dog, but the paper was so full of crap already, there was nothing left for the dog to use."

Irony is Sweet

On the very day when Jaime Satterfield writes about how Katie's efforts to get Harper and Houser arrested go "to no avail," the KPD goes out and and arrests Harper and Houser, and Laurie Pelot Gooch as icing on the cake. It will take a while before the Knoxville News Sentinel cleans the egg of its collective face.

KPD Press Release On the Arrests

Prescription Drugs targeted by Local Law Enforcement
September 20, 2011 – Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones, and Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols today announced the arrest of four Knox County residents on multiple drug charges. The arrests stem from several interrelated investigations over the past year by the KPD, KCSD and Knox County DA’s Office, culminating in today’s arrests led by the KPD Organized Crime Unit.
The charges in these cases are part of the focus of law enforcement here and across Tennessee on the scourge of the illegal use prescription drugs. Evidence on these charges was presented to a Knox County Grand Jury by the DA’s Office. Based on that evidence the Grand Jury returned indictments today.
Four individuals were indicted by the Knox County Grand Jury on 10 Felony drug charges.
1) Yolanda Meza Harper DOB: 12/20/1973 Tarklin Valley Road address
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Adderall), a Class C Felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone) in a School Zone, a Class B felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone) in a Child Care Zone, a Class C felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone) in a Park Zone, a Class C felony
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Methadone), a Class C Felony

2) Randall Ray Houser DOB: 11/20/1970 Tarklin Valley Road address
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Adderall), A Class C felony
3) Laurie Pelot Gooch DOB: 5/16/1961 Ainsworth Drive address
• Three Counts of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Oxycodone), a Class C felony
4) Kasie Westmoreland Robinson DOB: 8/23/1983 Woodbine Avenue address
• One Count of Sale & Delivery of Schedule II (Oxycodone), a Class C felony
Class C felonies carry a minimum sentence of 3 to 6 years. Class B felonies carry a minimum sentence of 8 to 12 year. School Zone, Child Care Zone and Park Zone cases require day for day service of the entire sentence.
The KCSD assisted the KPD in making these arrests.

Justice for Henry: One Step Closer

Back in 1964, McNairy County Tennessee had a big problem with corruption. The Dixie Mafia and the State Line Gang divided the county between them, running moonshine, women and crooked gambling out of bars and clubs, and the law, well, they just tried to keep civilians out of the crossfire.

Fear ruled the county until the people elected themselves a 6'6" rawboned former Marine and semi professional wrestler by the name of Buford Pusser as their sheriff. From 1964 to 1970, Pusser cleaned up McNairy County. It wasn't easy and it wasn't quick, and it came at a terrible cost. He was shot eight times, stabbed seven times, and worst, his wife was killed during an assassination attempt.Pusser died in a car accident in 1974 that many still believe was a successful hit on the former sheriff. His story caught the imagination of Hollywood and they made a movie about him called Walking Tall.

Pusser succeeded where others had failed for three reasons. He was tough; he didn’t quit and he never backed down. He refused to compromise or be compromised; he stood for the citizens of McNairy County and he did the job they elected him to do to the best of his abilities. And he had a passion for justice. He was driven by the need to see that those who broke the law were punished accordingly.

Fast forward 40 years and move from the state line to East Tennessee. Things have changed in four decades. Meth labs and prescription pills have replaced moonshine stills and white lightning; human trafficking and sexual slavery have replaced prostitution; and gambling, while mostly still illegal, has been taken over by the state in the form of a lottery.

The criminals have gotten stronger; the crimes have gotten nastier; the thugs have gotten more violent. Knox County has a growing problem with drugs, gangs and violence and Knox County Sheriff J. J. Jones is the man the voters chose to address those problems. So far, Jones hasn't shown much progress in dealing with these issues. East Tennessee leads the nation in meth labs. We’re at the top of the leader board in pill mills and prescription drug abuse. Our schools have more drugs than most pharmacies. So many kids and young adults are overdosing that the DA doesn't even bother trying to treat it as a crime anymore. Dealers operate in the open all over Knox County without fear of arrest. A human trafficking ring operated in West Knox County for over a year without the Sheriff’s office ever even noticing. It seems the victims of the crime were beneath the Sheriff’s notice.were beneath their notice.

Nope, instead of walking tall, Sheriff J.J. is walking small. Instead of kicking ass and taking names, he’s busy kissing ass and playing games. Instead of cleaning house, he's keeping house for his political friends and cronies.

Knox County needs a Buford Pusser; instead, we've got a Barney Fife.

So where are the heirs of Buford Pusser? Where are the men who stand for justice, regardless of the cost personally or politically? Where are the people who will stand and fight against corruption, indifference and incompetence?

Look into the mirror. We don't always have to wait for a new sheriff to see justice done. Sometimes, if we work for it hard enough, if we are tough, if we refuse to compromise, if we show a passion for justice, then we as citizens can walk tall, and make a difference.

Katie Granju is one citizen who walks tall, all 5' 2" of her.

Her son Henry fell into the trap of drug addiction, and once he was trapped, dealers preyed upon him, keeping him addicted, turning him into a dealer and possibly worse, then killing him with an overdose of drugs. The Knox County Sheriff's Office investigated Henry’s death for 14 months and the DA said it was the most thorough, professional investigation he'd seen from the KCSO. Yet after 14 months of intensive investigation, there were no arrests. The dealers who took Henry home, and allegedly gave him the overdose that eventually killed him were called "Good Samaritans” by the lead investigator from the KCSO. He told Henry’s family that they were only trying to help a kid in trouble.

Katie knew better. She knew there was more to the story and she dug it up. She passed on the information to the KCSO, expecting that they would follow up, and use their greater experience and resources to build a case and to take these dangerous people off the street. She knew what had happened and she refused to stand by quietly and let the KCSO sandbag the investigation. She used every means at her disposal to keep a fire lit under those who would have rather just let things slide.

They pushed back. An ADA said she should shut up. The local paper made her look like an obsessed nutcase. The KCSO did their level best to ignore her, refusing to ever meet in person with her, to listen to the information she had. The community was stirred up against her. She was mocked, criticized, and called all kinds of vile names, accused of being a bad parent, told that she should have done something different, that it was her fault that Henry died.
And in the end, the KCSO closed the case, no charges, no arrests, no justice.

Katie could have quit. She could have compromised and accepted the decision of the DA not to prosecute anybody for anything. She could have abandoned her quest to get some very dangerous people off the street before they contributed to the death of another person.
She could have, but she didn't. She kept fighting, kept asking questions, kept seeking anybody who could help.

And she succeeded.

Today, the Knoxville Police Department arrested Yolanda Harper, Randall Houser, and Laurie Pelot Gooch for multiple felony drug trafficking charges. The three key players in the death of Henry Granju are now behind bars, and while the charges are unrelated to Henry's death, the investigation that resulted in these arrests came from the case files that the KCSO made public, along with the information the Katie Granju provided.

These arrests, and any that follow, come only because Katie refused to quit, despite the tremendous personal cost to her and her family. Katie is getting justice for Henry, and she is succeeding for three reasons.

She’s was tough; she refuses to compromise; and she has a passion for justice.

Katie Granju is walking tall.

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